It all started about a month ago when I attended the SA Standards sub-committee meeting about document formats on behalf of The African Commons Project. In the lead up to the meeting I switched from Microsoft Office to NeoOffice (the Mac specific variant of OpenOffice). I haven’t gone back to Microsoft Office and I have been toying with removing it from my Mac altogether.
Since then I have been even more in favour of open source software although I have reminded myself that I use a Mac as my primary machine so all is good. Of course I could use a more powerful machine for some of the media related work I do and my Mac does seem to be taking a bit of strain lately. It is PowerPC based as is fast approaching its two year birthday. Anyway, I digress. I have had a hankering to try out Ubuntu Linux on my PC (yup, still have it from before my Mac and my wife uses the PC for her stuff) so the possibility of running a Linux system has been in the back of my mind for a while now (I still have the Ubuntu 6 discs on my bookshelf).
This last week I met with one of the ladies at the South African Legal Information Institute and after our meeting she was looking up some information for me and I saw she was running Ubuntu on her laptop and it looked amazing. It just looked like an awesome user interface. That just fanned the flames and I left determined to install Ubuntu on a partition. I tried to do that this morning and gave up after it just didn’t seem to work very well. I was also a bit nervous about messing up the Windows installation so my plan is to buy a new drive, install that and install Ubuntu on the new drive.
In the meantime I have been looking at some screenshots of the latest Ubuntu version, Feisty Fawn (version 7) and what I have seen just blows me away. For one thing the ability to cycle between desktops (a feature in the upcoming Mac OS X Leopard) looks amazing:
Granted the look and feel of Ubuntu depends on which backgrounds, themes and other modifications you use but this is a good looking operating system.
(Images courtesy of oldmanstan – licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike 2.0 license)
So anyway, I have been thinking about trying out a laptop loaded with Ubuntu as a primary work machine to see whether Ubuntu would meet my requirements and how fast it runs. From what I hear Ubuntu runs pretty fast on older machines, never mind the current hardware generation. I have even started to have some particularly sinful thoughts about not saving my pennies to one day buy a 15 inch MacBook Pro and instead looking at an ordinary laptop at half the price (or less) and running Ubuntu on it instead.
I am curious about a couple things though. For one thing, how particular would someone need to be about hardware specifications for an Ubuntu system? Do you buy a machine with an AMD chipset and processor or Intel? 64 bit or 32 bit? What about graphics cards and other doohickies? Does Ubuntu play nice with just about everything available or are certain manufacturers preferred? What about my iPod? Could I still sync all my AAC formatted audio files (including audiobooks)? What are the limitations using a Linux machine compared to a Mac? Any suggestions anyone?